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Bush to oppose renewable-energy aid

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WASHINGTON — The Bush administration plans to oppose an international drive to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and increase financing for nonpolluting energy sources worldwide, administration officials said Friday.

The proposals are contained in a report commissioned by the Group of Eight industrial nations, which will hold their annual summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, next week. The proposals would commit rich nations to help 1 billion people around the world get their power from renewable energy sources, like wind, water and the sun.

The White House says its opposition to the proposals is based on a desire to let the marketplace, rather than government, decide how quickly renewable energy sources are adopted worldwide. But critics say it is yet another example of the Bush administration placing the interest of oil and gas companies ahead of the drive to reduce global warming.

That debate notwithstanding, this decision by the Bush administration — along with objections Friday by Canadian officials, who also oppose elements of the report — could effectively prevent the G-8 from endorsing the proposals during its summit meeting. The group usually works by consensus, and proposals are generally not adopted if any members object.

European leaders had hoped to use the summit meeting to jump start talks on global warming and to salvage what they could of the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty to fight global warming, which the Bush administration also opposes. Some European officials and environmental groups viewed the task force's report as an important rallying point.

A final draft copy of the report calls on rich nations to "remove incentives and other supports for environmentally harmful energy technologies." It also encourages them to shift the priorities of international lending agencies, like the World Bank, to support more clean energy projects in poor nations.

People who helped prepare the report said that one important objective was to persuade wealthy nations to stop promoting fossil fuel projects in the developing world, a step that could reduce sales of power plants, pipelines, drilling equipment and other goods used in producing energy from oil and coal. The effort is directly related to fighting global warming.

The task force recommended that the G-8 nations use their public financing leverage with national and international lending institutions to support more clean energy projects.

A Bush administration official said that the United States did not support the report even though the high-profile task force that drew up the proposals rewrote it to reflect some American objections.

The task force included a number of government officials as well as leaders of multinational businesses and environmental groups. Co-chairmen of the group were Corado Clini, Italy's top environmental official, and Mark Moody Stuart, chairman of the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

A draft copy of the report was provided to The New York Times by people who support its goals and who want to call attention to the Bush administration's opposition to the task force.

While the administration supports the idea of expanding use of renewable energy sources, it does not favor the task force's emphasis on government-to-government funding, the administration official said. He said that the goal of having 1 billion people rely on clean energy sources within a decade was a target that had "no analytical basis."

"While we are committed to expanding the use of renewables, there was a sense that this task force was more focused on government funding — throwing money at the problem," the official said. "We are more interested in looking at how to leverage private sector efforts."

He said that the final communique of the summit meeting next week is likely to include language that supports the spread of clean energy even if the report is not endorsed.

Critics said that the rejection of this report is the latest example of the Bush administration undermining international efforts to combat emissions of greenhouse gases. President Bush announced in the spring that the United States had no intention of meeting targets set in the Kyoto treaty.

"By rejecting the task force's recommendations, President Bush is once again undermining any attempt to take serious action on global warming," said Daphne Wysham, a fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

The institute and Friends of the Earth, an environmental organization, conducted a study that found that the export promotion agencies of rich nations, like the Export-Import Bank of the United States, are the world's largest public backers of fossil fuels, the main causes of global warming. The credit agencies supported $115 billion in such projects in the five years through 1999, according to the study.

"About 2 billion people on this planet are not served by electricity and the most cost effective approach for them is often solar or biomass, not fossil fuels," said Dan Reicher, who served on the G-8 task force as a Clinton administration official. "But it takes real targets — numerical goals — if we are going to make a difference."

The Bush administration official said that he considered the task force's emphasis on nonpolluting energy for the developing world as lopsided. He said that as poor nations grow they will need traditional energy sources as well as renewables.

"There is not just one solution to the energy demands of growing and developing economies," the official said.

Among the goals embraced in the final report are several targets for improving or expanding the use of renewable energy. It says the G-8 should aim to help 200 million poor people worldwide use a variety of waste as energy sources to fuel fires for cooking purposes. It also suggests that clean energy sources could eventually provide electricity to 300 million people who do not have electricity today and another 500 million who are connected to an existing grid.

The executive summary of the report did not say how many people today are served by renewable energy sources, which includes hydropower. But it called its goals "ambitious."

Bush administration officials decided early on that they could not support key elements of the task force's work, according to people who participated in the task force efforts. At a key meeting to discuss an early draft of the report, held in Japan last March, an administration official rejected an early draft of the report and submitted a new executive summary prepared in Washington, the people involved said.

The task force incorporated some of the administration's views and watered down language referring to numerical goals, the people said. But the task force did not accept all of the changes proposed by the United States, and Bush administration declined to support the final draft.